Archive for February, 2008

Thoughts On Being an Anime Fan

While bored at work (pulling paging duty at a library is a marvelous way to ponder the great questions of life, the universe, and everything, as well as trying to decide why the Mc’s come before the Mad’s*) I have been spending some time thinking about the peculiar qualities of my anime fandom. This is a topic I explore again and again (again, bored at work), but it interests me.

As an anime fan, over the years, I’ve slowly developed into a rare sort of breed: what I will term a “holistic” fan of anime. That doesn’t mean I like everything–my “dropped” list on MAL says otherwise–but, rather, it means I am capable of liking anything. It’s somewhat hard for me to express in words sometimes, but it works something like this: I like most anything, provided it’s good. It’s a tautology, of course, so I have to expand it: if something can be objectively determined to be good at some element of storytelling, there’s a good chance I’ll like it.

I think the reason I can do this is because I approach anime not as 24 minute fun entertainment, but as a kind of hobby, an object to study and experience. There’s nothing wrong with watching anime purely for entertainment face value, but I can’t watch it that way anymore. It certainly entertains me to a great extent, but I think I connect with it on a different level than others do. This doesn’t necessarily make me a “better” fan than you, but it does make me different.

Partially, I think the reason I ended up becoming so interested in anime (to the near-exclusion of my previous hobby of sorts, reading) is because I “grew up” with it in a way. When I first got into anime (the story is chronicled here for the eternally curious) it was, of course, just another entertainment medium. However, at the same time, I was starting to really search out and expand my horizons, try new things and all that jazz. I think what happened was that, as my taste in stories matured, I gravitated more and more towards anime, as it always had the stories I wanted to see. I really can’t tell you why this is so, just that it is.

The whole flipping out about directors and direction and things, that’s more of a recent addition, a new level of depth to the activity I’ve enjoyed for five and a half years. It seems somewhat anomalous for me to be as into peripheral parts of the whole anime subculture: if one of you walked into my room, you’d think I was Moe Freak #135324, given my rather tasteless (or is it?) room decor of Megami posters, but somehow I manage to straddle the line between being someone who’s into anime for the cute girls, and someone who’s into anime for anything but the cute girls. I think what’s happened is that I’ve morphed into that most elusive of beasts: a true otaku (or wotaku, or however the kids are spelling it these days) who watches anime for a multitude of reasons, both legitimate and less so. The experience of being an anime fan is what drives me currently, it’s strangely addicting and time-consuming and all those other words. It’s gotten to the point where it’s impossible to conceive that I might one day not like anime–it defines my life, so why stop it?

This is somewhat of me rambling at the mouth again, but if I don’t put my thoughts into words they disappear into thin air, never to be seen again.


* answer: Mc and Mac are treated as Mac, hence Mc before Mad

No, Horo, it is empty. There is no more beer. You are lucky you were not doused with the stuff.

Too bad I dislike the concept of alcohol, or else all this beer-swilling would turn me on. Alas.

What struck me the most in this episode (which is 8, not 7; 7 is too spicy for TV so they couldn’t air it, or something) was the fact that Horo is totally playing Lawrence for a fool. I mean, they spread it on thick there with that inn room scene where she’s begging him for oil to make her tail pretty. She took the womanly charm and essentially seduced him into buying whatever she wanted.

It’s things like this that bring up questions about who’s ahead in the Lawrence/Horo relatonship. Is one trying to pull the wool over the head of the other? Are they both trying to do it to each other, the most likely scenario? Or is this just some kind of weird authorial trick? Lawrence is no cad, and many of his moves so far have been carefully calculated–but so have Horo’s. She is a wolf, after all, less wily and cunning than, say, a fox, but still up there. If she’s playing Lawrence for a dupe, or he her, then this series has a lot going on under the surface that the viewer isn’t seeing. Beneath the Horo fanservice lies an uncanny game of chess between the two leads which never ends. It’s little touches like this that make me like the series more with each episode, and sad that it is merely a one-season series. Hopefully, the popularity of the series with the American fanbase will lead to a licensing of the light novels, which means that the series doesn’t have to end until the author ends it.

And on the topic of having missed an episode somewhere, I think the magician we meet at the end was actually introduced in episode 7, but we’re lacking that informaton, so it’s kind of upsetting to me to watch a series that’s supposed to be enjoyed in-order out-of-order. That’s just plain ol’ human OCD, though. I assume all will be made clear when the DVD is out and 7 is released for all to enjoy and marvel at. It’s probably the second (and final) arc of the series, so more economic thrills, chills, and spills (literally) await us. And more interaction, I hope.

Kirameki: Misunderstood Genius, or Psychopathic Lunatic? YOU BE THE JUDGE.

Whatever he is, he makes me look like Chiaki here.

Shigofumi episode 8 was extremely clever in many ways. We look deeper into the personality of Kirameki, Fumika’s father, at the same time as we get Wacky Sister Hijinks. It’s a win-win situation no matter how you slice it.

Kirameki’s deranged ravings about beauty and truth and glass show him to be a master at stringing words together to form poetic novels of unspeakable beauty, so he’s undoubtedly a genius. However, we see, his waxing poetic has affected many people. Including one girl who decided to take her own life after reading about the beauty of death in one of his books. The girl in question may not have been the most stable of people to begin with (we know nothing of her background, and will continue to know nothing, so speculation is moot), but as wrenching as someone taking their life over words in a book is, what’s even more wrenching is Kirameki’s reaction to the shigofumi.



It’s a slightly twisted way to express one’s gratitude to an author for changing their personal belief on death, but Kirameki’s utter rejection of the letter as garbage is probably the more reprehensible act here. The proper emotion concerning a suicide over something you have written is probably quite difficult to put into words–it’d probably be somewhere between pride in your words to move someone so dramatically, if negatively; and utter shame that, well, someone committed suicide over a book you wrote. This is not Kirameki’s emotion whatsoever. He’s seemingly oblivious to the fact that the letter is from a dead person, and he fails to grasp the significance of the letter. Simply because it is not beautiful, he wishes to destroy it.

It’s illustrative of the fact that yes, one may have the potent gift to write beautifully with glass pens, and one can certainly be an unparalleled genius at authorship, but that doesn’t mean you actually get what it means to be human. I think in some regards this is why I’m mistrustful of writers who are advertised by copywriters and quotes on the cover as having “beautiful, lyrical writing” or some other nonense such as that: they’re certainly impressive writers, and it must have taken a long time to arrange each and every word into place so that the whole reads beautifully and poetically, but…it’s hollow. Or, at least, that’s how I feel. It’s certainly beautiful and poetic, and makes for great quotes, but ultimately these works have less power to evoke the emotion and thoughtfulness that they’re supposed to, at least for me. There’s something lacking in them, and in Kirameki: a kind of “naturalness”, a rough-around-the-edges feeling. Kirameki can certainly wax poetic with the best of them (the nigh-on hilarious quotes we get from his books prove this), but he lacks what it means to be human, and so, for all his bluster and lyricism, he’s nothing more than a common psychopath. Or so I think, anyway.

The Mugi-Choco Chibi of Apology, Regret, and Cuteness

To make up for the rather graphic violence contained in Parasyte, should you read (or have read) it, and included a rather creepy cover image with a hand with eyeballs in the post about it, here is some hyper-cute Mugi-Choco chibi to soothe your soul.

Isn’t she just adorable? Mugi-Choco Love, now and forever. Thank you, fictional sister. You are a hero among men.

Parasyte: The Thinking Man’s Horror Manga

So I picked up Del Rey’s snazzy new and massive re-releases of the first two volumes of the Parasyte manga on a random whim recently, and pretty much blazed through them both today. The author, Iwaaki Hitoshi, is currently doing another manga for Monthly Afternoon called Historie, which I read one volume of a while ago and really liked (and will talk about more when I get around to reading more), which was part of the reason why I picked up Parasyte as I did. I’m extremely glad I did–it’s not only thrilling and suspenseful, it’s also got a fair bit of brain candy to chew on.

The plot runs something like this: Izumi Shinichi is your average second-year high school student, but when a mysterious alien invasion hits Earth, his right arm ends up being “devoured” by an alien parasite. This is, of course, a failure for the parasite, because Migi, which Shinichi ends up calling him, was supposed to devour the brain and not the hand. The other, more successful, alien parasites are currently rampaging throughout humanity, devouring hapless humans and mutilating the remains. Shinichi knows of this, and decides to try and stop the invaders, with the somewhat reluctant help of Migi, who is interested in preserving Shinichi only by way of the fact that he is his host, and his life is bound to him.

As Migi evolves and Shinichi deals with the agonizing problem of having a talking hand with eyeballs, the reader is left to ponder some interesting questions: what does it mean to be human, and at what point does our humanity end? In the case of those infected by the parasites, their humanity is literally devoured and they become soulless killing machines. But Shinichi is left with his brain intact, and no choice but to try and stop the invasion by himself. The matter is complicated somewhat by the fact that as Migi becomes more human in his thought patterns, the kind and gentle Shinichi is becoming ever more ruthless and apathetic. He’s certainly spurred by a noble goal, and his methods (in the first two volumes) are not cruel, but people around him are starting to notice his humanity slipping away. Is this a good thing, then? Is it truly a noble thing to sacrifice one’s well-being for the sake of all humanity? Migi even points out that he doesn’t understand the self-sacrificing nature of humans, and considers them just another form of animal. If that’s the case, then why do we feel unique as humans? What makes us human? Is it that we are the only animal that we know of who cares for other animals, both of and not of our species?

I could go on endlessly on some kind of philosophical rant, but that’d just be my opinion. The correct thing to do, then, would be to get thee to a bookstore, and pick up Parasyte now. If you were “blessed” with reading the ancient Tokyopop/MIXX releases, more power to you–you know more about this series than I do, at the moment. The Del Rey re-releases are certainly snazzy and cool, and May can’t come fast enough for me.

Shin’ichiro’s Torment, Noe’s Happiness, Aiko’s Grief, Hiromi’s Lament, and Jun’s Utter Confusion

Aww, isn’t she just so happy that Shin’ichiro loves her?

Of course, Shin’ichiro is a somewhat tormented individual at the present time. It’s here that I think one of the strongest strengths of true tears lies: Shin’ichiro himself. He isn’t a spineless self-insertion stand-in lead male for the viewer, like a lesser anime with the same basic premise (of which there have been quite a few–Da Capo, I’m looking at you); he’s instead a character in his own right, with his own unique sets of motivations. He doesn’t necessarily want all the girls who are chasing after him in various fashions. He doesn’t want to have to go through the painful process of selecting one out of three, crushing the hopes of the other two. It’s a delicate game he’s playing, and he’s not playing it entirely well, depending on which of the three girls you’re rooting for. Personally, I’m pulling for Noe, but I don’t want to see Hiromi and Aiko’s hopes crushed either, which will probably happen. Or else all three of them will get crushed for ultimate BAD END.

Shin’ichiro’s predicament is sympathetic to pretty much anyone, even if we haven’t been in the not-so-wonderful position of having multiple women lusting after us. Despite what harem anime will make you think, being caught between any number of women, be it two or twenty, is not a pleasant situation rife with boob-grabbing and panties-seeing and sky-punching. true tears approaches this angle from a much more human perspecive: Shin’ichiro is just trying to do the best that he can for all three. The problem here, however, is his very own cheerful and friendly matchmaking: he set Aiko up with Miyokichi (despite the fact that she likes him), and he also set up Hiromi with Jun (despite the fact that she likes him as well). In trying to do the best for his friends, he ultimately ends up punishing himself, a situation which I can lamentably empathize with. It’s one thing to be nice; it’s entirely another to be nice and smart.

Shin’ichiro is kind-hearted but naive, which is exactly what I am, so, therefore, it’s yet another anime character which I can identify with. I think that’s why I like true tears so much–it’s not hard to identify with at least one of the characters in some fashion.

Either that, or I’m just moe for Noe.

Nishi no Yoki Majo (Good Witch of the West) pt. 1 by Ogiwara Noriko

Yeah, it’s a book “review”. I bet you all look like Firiel here.

Tokyopop released the first volume of the Good Witch of the West quintology late last year. Some of you may be familiar with its anime counterpart, which is somewhat incredibly different from the actual novel.

How different, you ask? The creators of the anime took a five-volume series (each book being about 200 pages in English, apparently) and crammed it into thirteen episodes. That would be a problem, no? If you liked the anime in any way, shape, or form, the novel will be a real treat, as it’s the anime, except with the bits that they cut out put back in. I’m at a somewhat interesting vantage point reading this novel, as I already know the truth behind many of the events in the series, due to watching the anime, but the fun thing for me is finding out the little details that got axed. This first novel covers the events in the first two episodes, roughly, in much more detail.

For those who haven’t seen the anime and have no idea what it is, I’d recommend reading the novel before seeing the anime, if you ever do, for the reasons stated above. Good Witch of the West is Ogiwara Noriko writing about schemes and plots in the nobility for five books. Firiel Dee, the main character, finds out rather suddenly that she’s actually a princess, similar to the characters in the fairytales she reads all the time; however, unlike these fairytale characters, when she finds this out, she is immediately swept into a world of plots, schemes, and conspiracies. It’s all pretty fun, if perhaps a bit on the escapist side.

The hallmark of the series is the relationship between Firiel and Rune. It’s exactly what you would get if you shoved two tsundere characters into a relationship with each other. That’s how awesome it is. The two are constantly in a love-hate/hate-love relationship, both of them trading insults and digs at each other, and both of them thinking the other is uncouth and unrefined. It’s a weird romantic (for that is what it ultimately ends up being, as anyone can plainly see from the first novel) setup, operating on the axiom that opposites attract. It’s fun to watch them ricochet off each other, and Ogiwara does this especially well in the book.

Good Witch of the West doesn’t quite stack up with other, Western adult fantasy books in totally unfair comparison, and either the original writing or the translation is somewhat strange to my finely honed reader’s eye, but it’s certainly leagues ahead of most of the things that get churned out for YA pubishers nowadays, which is the market that this appeals to most. I do know that many library journals give the manga adaptation high praise, and it’s always hard to wring out that starred review from Kirkus or Booklist, but there you have it. Kid-tested, librarian approved!

Surname Poker is awesome

Now I would like to see Surname Rummy, Surname Pinochle, and Surname Uno. Just because.

So I think this (by “this” I mean “episodes 5 and 6”) was the best arc of Hatenkou Yuugi yet, but I’m having trouble expressing why. This won’t stop me from trying, though!

I think what it is is the general strength of Hatenkou Tuugi itself: somewhat strange and unconventional plots abound. I think that in many other series, the same plot would have been handled a bit differently; i.e., we wouldn’t have Jean-Foup killing himself in a rather grotesque and exaggerated method, and neither would Lalawel be…well, Lalawel. It’s like every other story in Hatenkou Yuugi: it’s a standard-fare setup with some kind of strange twist that shakes things up. In this case, it’s the fact that Lalawel is a murderous and almost apathetic serial killer, which probably only improves her moe point status with certain groups of people.

It’s blatantly obvious (Baroqueheat even points out how obvious it is) that Lalawel’s behavior resonates with Rahzel’s past somewhat, in some kind of twisted, bizarre way. I don’t know what it has to do with the “don’t cross this line” flashback that keeps getting repeated, or her mother going insane, but there’s something there. It almost seems like all three of the main cast have some kind of terrible secret that they’re hiding from each other. I would probably know this if I actually read the manga (I have bought the first volume, by the way; it’s sitting on my shelf softly cooing “Read me! Read me!”), which is apparently better anyway (the anime apparently excises a lot of the snappy dialogue, and Baroqueheat is much less of a womanizer), but I haven’t so I’m stuck with the anime.

Other best thing about this arc: Baroqueheat getting kneed in the stomach. That was amazing. Thank you, Rahzel, for being the voice of reason. I think.

How NOT To Stop Bullying, Lesson One

Do not stab bully with a screwdriver. This is counterproductive.

I feel very, very unclean right now. I think I need to have a mini-Passover or something. I didn’t think Shigofumi would be able to top the second episode’s father-selling-daughters-for-sex-and-money revelation, or would even try to top it.

It did.

Episode 6 was horrifyingly uncomfortable to watch, and i was never really bullied that much in school. Maybe it was because I was never bullied in school that made it so uncomfortable to watch. The “bullying is bad” storyline has been made before, of course, countless times, but that’s unimportant as Shigofumi does a really good number showing the brutal effects of bullying, in part because the writers aren’t trying to shy away from the, well, brutal. From people giving horrible “sympathy” to the bullied, merely making their problem worse unto death, and then turning the tables on the somewhat hapless bystander, and then hapless bystander turning the tables AGAIN. It was quite a ride.

The clever mechanic of letting Morishita see inside the head of Kikugawa through the anonymity of the Internet was a clever device, as it lets the bullier (even if a relatively passive one) get a glimpse inside the mind of the buillied. Of course, then again, he feels the pain himself later on, and responds in a quite different manner than the passive Kikugawa. Everything about this episode screamed “quality” at me while I was watching it, although I was too busy feeling icky to quite properly notice. I wasn’t even planning to talk about it here, but, uh, well, you see how well that went.

true tears may be my favorite series of this season, but Shigofumi is getting a close second, just for this. I’m surprised winter season has been so good–normally, there’s not much to watch. Maybe I’ve changed, or maybe this is just an unusual winter season. Whatever it is, I think 2008 will be a wild year.

Tarou and Miyako’s Secret Love Tryst in the Woods

They seem to have lots of these. Eagerly awaiting romance subplot.

Ghost Hound continues to please me; I think in some ways it’s a kind of more sinister Zettai Shounen: you’ve got the same glacial, relaxed pacing, mysterious events surrounding the main characters, and oddball background music (or, in Ghost Hound’s case, no music at all but sound effects). The two invoke similar moods at times, but Ghost Hound is laced with that edge of creepiness that Zettai Shounen didn’t have. Not that it needed it, because it was still a good series, but there you go.

I was talking with a friend of mine who accused the series of being “over-produced”, a term which I hadn’t heard before, but which he explained meant that the series was trying to appeal to as broad an audience as it possibly could, sapping the soul of the creator out of it. I don’t think he’s right; checking online, the term “over-produced” gets applied to films like Memoirs of a Geisha and Alexander and other kinds of movies I’ve never seen that had enormous pre-release studio-generated hype and were an attempt to snipe the Academy Awards, at which they failed horribly. Call me crazy, but I don’t get this feeling from Ghost Hound. It is the 10th anniversary series of Production I.G., after all, so yes, it has a high production budget, and it certainly looks very good, but I think the series has only improved over time. The first few episodes weren’t especially enthralling, I will grant everyone that, but I felt somehow oddly compelled to watch more, and the series has opened itself up since then. I think my friend was going by the first several lacklustre episodes, for which I can’t fault him much, but he’s still wrong. The series clearly isn’t trying to grab as many demographics as it possibly can–it’s far too unlike Higurashi no Naku Koro ni to really be effective at that. The only “cute girl” character we’ve got is Miyako, who is suitably cute, but there’s no obvious otaku-bait moments, which I would take as a sign of “over-production” in the “grab every demographic” sense. Plus, no-one is watching it. Another reason it’s like Zettai Shounen! So watch it already! But you probably are! Exclamation points!


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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February 2008